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ND Women’s Swimming: ND looks to start new championship streak

Brian Hartnett | Tuesday, February 14, 2012

After playing the role of favorite for the last 15 years, Notre Dame will look to use its newfound role of underdog to surprise some teams at this year’s Big East championships in Pittsburgh.

Louisville snapped Notre Dame’s unprecedented streak of 14 consecutive conference championships last year. With the Cardinals seen as favorites for this year’s championship meet, the Irish (6-6) will aim to come from behind and potentially start a new run of championships.

“Our team was talking about how this year is the first time we will be able to be on the offense instead of on the defense, since we were previously always looking to defend the title,” junior Kim Holden said. “We’re looking forward to just focusing on putting up some impressive times, but we like knowing that we’ll be on the hunt instead of being hunted.”

The Irish swimmers will look to build on the strong performance by the Irish diving team over the weekend. The Irish divers picked up 71 points in competition, which lifted the Irish into second place, one spot below Louisville, in the Big East women’s team standings.

To make their push at the championships, the Irish will look to several of their accomplished and experienced upperclassmen. The team features two individual champions from last year’s Big East championships in Holden and sophomore Kelly Ryan.

Holden, who is a seven-time Big East champion, took titles in the 100- and 200-yard backstroke events last year, while Ryan, who holds the fastest time on the team in four different events this season, won the 100- and 200-yard freestyle championships last season. Notre Dame will also rely on senior Amy Prestinario and junior Lauren Scott, who contributed to last year’s championship-winning 400-yard relay team.

Notre Dame will also look for strong performances from the team’s talented group of freshmen, who have been vital to the team’s success all season. Freshmen Emma Reaney, who has been named Big East Women’s Swimmer and Diver of the Week three times, Bridget Casey, who has won four titles in the 200-yard fly this season and Suzanne Bessette, who has the team’s quickest time in the 200-yard freestyle, have led this year’s group of freshmen.

Holden saidshe has confidence in the freshmen and thinks they will continue to contribute to the team, even during a high-stakes meet like the Big East championships.

“I think the freshmen have set themselves really well to contribute a huge amount to this year’s championship meet,” Holden said. “I don’t even think of them as freshmen because they have been really impressive and stepped up as leaders. I’m not worried about them at all.”

Although a Big East championship serves as a major goal for the team, Holden said the team’s focus is ultimately on the small picture, the individual races that could make or break a championship bid.

“Winning the Big East would be amazing and it is definitely on our minds, but it’s not our number one priority right now,” Holden said. “Our priority is to focus on one swim at a time and to put up some fast times that will surprise a lot of people.”

The Big East championships will begin Wednesday at Pittsburgh’s Trees Pool and conclude Saturday.

 

Contact Brian Hartnett at bhartnet@nd.edu